Ryan Crotty’s late converted try ends Ireland’s hope of a first victory over New Zealand
Ireland 22 New Zealand 24: The sporting world is a cruel, cruel place. At the end even a chance for Paul O’Connell’s team to stand beside the 1973 10-10 draw at this stadium was snatched away by referee Nigel Owens.
Aaron Cruden had missed the conversion of Ryan Crotty’s 82nd-minute try but Owens allowed the New Zealand flyhalf to have another shot as he judged the Irish rushers had left the line too quickly.
Until that moment we were witnessing a historic, magical moment in Irish sport.
But instead it is just another defeat to a team Ireland have never been able to topple.
Just before the hour mark Ma’a Nonu took a pass in the wide channel but before he could bamboozle Luke Fitzgerald – in for the concussed Brian O’Driscoll – with a power step. Untouched, he stumbled and fell. Fitzgerald pounced.
Such occurrences happened enough times for everyone watching this to believe this would be the day the All Black hoodoo would finally be broken.
Denis Hickie said earlier in the week that the only way to beat New Zealand was if every Irish player had a dream game.
The only way to deal with that opening 40 minutes is a blow by blow account.
So many were landed by Ireland. And not just usual suspects like Seán O’Brien and Cian Healy.
Devin Toner was scrapping with O’Connell to get in ahead of his captain and smash the big All Black forwards. One gang tackle on Charlie Faumuina seemed to rock the tourists’ confidence.
Mike Ross made at least six thudding tackles (and he owned Wyatt Crockett in the scrum).
Rory Best decided to perform like a Test match wing forward, brilliant for 14 minutes until he broke his arm.
Gordon D’Arcy was phenomenal but Conor Murray was arguably better than anyone else on the field.
His recall changed the Irish offence for the better. His running threat and strength delivered a try after just four minutes, lugging three of the bigger Kiwi bodies over the line with him.
Nonu responded more than any other New Zealander, bludgeoning his way through midfield.
D’Arcy and O’Driscoll were with him all the way, grounding the game’s most ferocious rugby player before he could create a try.
Best’s try on 10 minutes should never be forgotten. The Ulster hooker was involved in the attack on three occasions as rumbles by O’Brien and Healy eventually saw Best step inside the largely anonymous Kieran Read.